The Valar and the Mythology of Middle-earth (TOLKIEN TUESDAY)

The Valar and the Mythology of Middle-earth (TOLKIEN TUESDAY)

Good morning Rebels, and welcome back to my life.

It’s Tolkien Tuesday, the day we talk about Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and any exciting things going on in the real life world of Tolkien, and today we’re going to talk about the Valar, or the gods of Middle-Earth.

When you talk about the Valar, there’s a tendency for people to refer to them as the “religion” of Middle-earth.

But we have to be very careful about how we’re defining religion. The Valar don’t fit within the context of religion as a system of belief. There is no belief. They are there.

You didn’t explicitly see the Valar in the Lord of the Rings films, but you did see their servants, and you did see the Valar…do things.

Now, if we define religion as a system of worship, then yes, there is some religion in the Lord of the Rings books, though they kind of left it out of the movies.

But there are no churches, mosques or synagogues in the Lord of the Rings, there is no organized system of belief and there are no Bibles, Torahs or Qurans.

We got that straightened out? Okay. So the Valar are a class of divine beings just under THE divine being: God himself, Eru Ilúvatar.

Ilúvatar was the first guy around, and he created everything else there was—including the first other beings in the universe, known as the Ainur.

Fun side note: According to Tolkien, Ilúvatar only did four things in the history of Middle-earth:

  1. Creating the Men and Elves
  2. Splitting the world in half, which we’ll talk about later
  3. Bringing Gandalf back to life, and
  4. Tripping Gollum so he would fall into the fires of Mount Doom.

Kind of a descending order of epicness. You start with creating two entire species and then end with tripping a little hobbit into some lava.

Oh yeah, Gollum was a hobbit. You didn’t know that?

The Ainur were divided into two types: the Valar, who we’re talking about today, and the Maiar, who were sort of like angels.

We’ll discuss the Maiar another time—and you’ve seen a few of them in the films—but the Valar were their bosses. If this were Greek mythology, they’d be THE gods, like Zeus and Hera and Aphrodite and so on.

So if the Valar were around, why don’t we see them? Where the heck are these guys while Sauron is tearing things apart?

Well, the Valar used to live all across Middle-earth. Well, hold on, we need to talk about that, too.

Middle-earth is just humanity’s name for the place where they happen to live. And it’s called Middle-earth because there’s lands to the west of it, and lands to the east of it.

The lands to the east of it are where barbaric men live, and the lands to the west of it are where the Valar settled down.

See there was this big gigantic war with a bad Valar called Melkor and when it was done they all retired into this land west across the sea from Middle-earth, and they called their new home Valinor.

So why didn’t people from Middle-earth just go to Valinor? Well, they used to be able to, though the route was very treacherous.

In fact when Melkor started stirring up trouble in Middle-earth again, a guy named Eärendil did go there to ask the Valar for help.

He turned into a star afterward, by the way. It’s a long story.

But after another very long time, men tried to invade the lands in the West, because of course they did. Now, the Valar dealt with them, but then they decided that they couldn’t just be sitting there for people to invade whenever they wanted.

So they turned to Eru Ilúvatar—remember, THE God, the big man upstairs—and asked for his help, so he split the world in two, like we mentioned before.

On one half, you had Middle-earth and all the lands to the east. On the other half, you had the land of Valinor where the Valar lived.

He turned the Middle-earth half into a sphere, so that if anyone ever tried to sail for Valinor again, they would just hit the eastern lands instead. And he suspended Valinor above the earth so no one could reach it by boat.

But he left one sea-road stretching from Middle-earth to Valinor, and that road could only be traveled by Elves. Although a few other people did end up traveling it—namely Frodo and Bilbo.

And fun side note—near the very end of his life, Sam also sailed west to Valinor, and some time much later after that, so did Gimli, who went with Legolas when he finally decided to leave Middle-earth.

So today we learned WHAT the Valar were and WHERE they were—next week we’ll start delving into WHO they were, and some of the things they did in the history of Middle-earth.

Because it turns out some of it was pretty important.

As always, Rebels, thank you for watching, and I will see you tomorrow. Maybe. Byyye.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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